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How to Get Around Japan: Best Transportation for Travelers

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Tokaido Shinkanzen, Japanese bullet train, passing Mt. Fuji with spring flowers in the foreground

The Tokaido Shinkansen passing Mt Fuji in Japan

Getting around a new country can feel intimidating, but transportation in Japan often leaves travelers pleasantly surprised due to the ease with which you can travel there.

How to travel around Japan can be left in the hands of a local travel expert, allowing you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Race across train tracks hugged by vibrant pink cherry blossoms, zip through the cities comfortably in private vehicles, or cruise across shimmering lakes by boat as you learn the best way to travel in Japan during your trip.

  1. We Can Help You Get Around Japan
  2. Travel by Plane
  3. Travel by Train
  4. Travel by Private Transfer
  5. Travel by Rental Car
  6. Travel by Bus
  7. Travel by Boat
  8. Travel Using Urban Travel Options
  9. Travel Using Ridesharing Apps
  10. Enjoy the Best Ways to Travel in Japan

We Can Help You Get Around Japan

A Zicasso Japan travel expert makes exploring the country easy and immersive, using their expertise to help you effortlessly navigate local and long-distance transportation. With an understanding of life and culture on the ground and a knowledge of the best transportation options for every experience, your specialist can personalize your travel plans to your preferences, based on your custom-tailored itinerary.

A travel specialist crafts a luxury experience for you by using their expert recommendations as a starting point to craft a trip based on your ideas, goals, and travel inspiration, but focused on how you wish to travel. From private transfers to bullet trains, city-to-city excursions or island ferries, you can curate your transportation plans with advice from a Zicasso specialist.

Travel by Plane

Plane taxiing at Naha Airport on Okinawa, Japan

Naha Airport in Okinawa, Japan

Japan has more than 50 domestic airports for easy national and international connections. The number of airports in the country makes it easy to travel across the island, or between islands. While bullet-train travel is often the best option for longer distances such as Tokyo to Sapporo or Tokyo to Fukuoka, these are better reached by plane.

Best for: Long-distance travel that may connect the corners of the island or distant islands, such as Okinawa, or when visiting many places during a 14-day Japan tour.

Travel by Train

Local train in the Kyoto with cherry blossoms along the route

Local train in Kyoto, Japan

Trains are a fantastic way to travel long distances in Japan. The rail network across the country offers excellent connections to major cities on the famous Shinkansen bullet train, while slower, scenic trains wind up to popular mountain destinations. The high-speed trains can reach up to 199 miles per hour on the nine lines traveling across Japan in different directions. The most popular high-speed train routes include Tokyo to Yokohama, Osaka to Kyoto, and Osaka to Nagoya.

Scenic trains give you a picturesque journey at a slower pace, reaching more rural destinations, which could offer an exciting view of the landscape during a cherry blossom tour. The slower trains venture through the gorgeous countryside on popular lines like Mount Fuji to Shinkansen, the Hisatsu Line, and the Sagano Scenic Railway.

Best for: Trips connecting to popular national cities like Kyoto and Tokyo or even Osaka for fast and effortless connections.

Travel by Private Transfer

Japan is a gorgeous country with stunning heritage towns and scenic roads that a private driver can connect you with. A driver often doubles as a guide who takes you quickly and efficiently through a city based on your schedule, giving you more options to enjoy the top things to do when in Japan.

Whether you are interested in reaching a village in the mountains or have an early-morning flight, a private driver offers personal attention, quality service, and a sense of luxury.

Best for: Exploring cities or the countryside at your leisure or with a guided tour that can offer you more flexibility.

Travel by Rental Car

Driving through fall foliage in Fukushima, Japan

Bandai-Azuma Skyline Drive in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

Japan can be a satisfying driving destination if you plan on visiting rural areas that lack public transportation. The amazing scenery outside the large cities brings an inspiring view of the natural beauty, while a vast network of well-planned and maintained highways and roads eases your ride.

Best for: Travel in the countryside, through heritage villages, or to explore the natural beauty away from the city traffic in places like Tokyo or Kyoto.

Travel by Bus

Transportation station in Kanazawa, Japan

Transportation station in Kanazawa, Japan

A bus can make for a pleasant trip and is an alternative to train travel. Whether on a highway between cities or in rural areas, fares are based on distance and the dense network of bus lines has numerous companies and routes, especially to and from Tokyo.

Luxury amenities like wifi, electrical outlets, and personal entertainment systems are part of the experience as you ride on the well-designed network of highways.

Best for: An alternative to traveling far, but without taking the train or flying.

Travel by Boat

Kyusho Ferry, connecting Nagasaki Prefecture with Kumamoto Prefecture.  Photo courtesy Kyusho Ferry / JNTO

Kyusho Ferry. Photo courtesy Kyusho Ferry / JNTO

The nation of Japan consists of hundreds of small islands and a boat or ferry can take you between the majority of the archipelago, especially for those destinations not connected by bridges or tunnels. Ferries are equipped for long distances or even night services and offer charging stations or free wifi. Popular sea routes include Kobe to Hiroshima or Osaka to Matsuyama, which can offer a romantic interlude during a Japan tour for couples.

Best for: Ferries are common between the islands and offer an alternative to flying, especially if visiting smaller locations that may not have access to an airport.

Travel Using Urban Travel Options

Taxi at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Taxi at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Taxis and metros are great alternatives to walking when visiting larger cities like Tokyo or Kyoto. The network of subways connects to the greater rail systems, making it much easier to travel the wider regions of the country. The metro systems across Japan are reliable, clean, and easy to manage. Licensed taxis provide quality services, but are expensive and most often unnecessary given the efficiency and ease of public transportation across the nation.

Buses in Japan can be intimidating, whether you are a Japanese citizen or a tourist. They often have different ticketing systems that depend on the specific company and bus stops are not necessarily well-marked. Information in English, such as timetables, announcements, and signs, is also not that common.

Best for: Alternatives to walking, especially when traveling far distances through a city, but can come with challenges.

Travel Using Ridesharing Apps

Ridesharing apps are legal in Japan, but require a driver to have a commercial license. While popular in the United States and several other countries, ridesharing apps like Uber are not as convenient.

Many of the apps are not well-known and due to the commercial license requirement, it often results in a personal car being more expensive than a standard taxi. Japan does have a taxi app that makes hailing a cab much easier and more efficient.

Best for: Travelers who may be traveling in a pinch or have a particular attachment to an app.

Enjoy the Best Ways to Travel in Japan

Ferry in Yokohama, Japan

Yokohama, Japan

Traveling within Japan is exceptional, from its high-speed trains to accommodating ferries. These factors allow you to enjoy the best places to visit in Japan, as well as the top things to do and everything in between to the fullest.

Through our Japan travel guide, you are able to explore even more information and inspiration that will prepare you for your trip. You can also find more ideas for your journey with our sample Japan tours before you speak with a local travel specialist.

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